Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said Friday that all migrants camped out under the Del Rio International Bridge in southern Texas have been cleared.
“As of this morning, there are no longer any migrants in the camp underneath the Del Rio International Bridge,” the secretary told reporters.
Mayorkas said that up to 30,000 people were encountered in Del Rio since Sept. 9 and that as many as 15,000 were concentrated there at one time.
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Approximately 12,400 individuals are expected to have their cases heard by an immigration judge to decide whether they will be allowed to remain in the U.S.
Another 8,000 have chosen to return to Mexico, while an estimated 5,000 migrants are being processed by DHS, which will determine whether they will be deported or placed in an immigration processing center, Mayorkas said.
“Migrants continue to be expelled under the CDC’s Title 42 authority,” Mayorkas said. “Title 42 is a public health authority and not an immigration policy.”
Democrats have pushed back on the use of Title 42 – first implemented under the Trump administration – as it allows federal officials to sidestep usual immigration practices to protect against the spread of COVID-19.
Mayorkas also pointed out that Title 42 is a policy that “is applicable and has been applicable to all irregular migration during this pandemic.”
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“It is not specific to Haitian nationals or the current situation,” he added, in an apparent attempt to counter accusations of racism.
Roughly 2,000 people — mostly Haitians in the most recent border surge — have been deported so far.
Only those who can prove they have an “acute vulnerability” or threat of torture will be permitted to remain in the U.S.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) – which falls under DHS – came under fire this week after images surfaced depicting aggressive actions by CBP officers on horseback blocking Haitian migrants from illegally crossing into the U.S.
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CBP officers have now been barred by the administration from using horses in the Del Rio sector, and an investigation has been launched.
“The agents involved in these incidents have been assigned to administrative duties and are not interacting with migrants while the investigation is ongoing,” Mayorkas said.